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Guest Post: Forget Perfection – Strive For Optimization

Everything you do in your business is a process. From customer service to sales and marketing. Being successful in business is all about optimizing these processes as much as possible.

Optimization is such an important area of business, but this critical area is often overlooked by business owners and CEOs amidst cries of “I’m too busy!” or “I don’t have the time right now—I’ll get to it eventually…”

Inevitably, some of those people never find the time and they simply continue along their trajectory, completely oblivious to the fact that they could be leaving thousands of dollars on the table.

But the concept of optimization is simple:

“Maximum results for the time with the minimum risk, the minimum effort and the minimum expense.” – Jay Abraham.

Optimization just means that you are utilizing all of your resources, to the maximum efficiency. Imagine if you could double or triple the effectiveness of your sales process to bring in more customers, or quadruple the effectiveness of your customer service processes to improve customer satisfaction and retain customers 400% longer! Don’t you think that would have an amazing impact on your business? Or on your life and on the life of the people who work for you, not to mention your customers?

Of course it would. But here’s the thing, optimization isn’t something you can just jump into and there are a few questions that you need to ask yourself before you can start experimenting:

1. Documenting – What exactly are your processes? Do you know everything your employees are doing for you? Do you have a set process to follow for each area of your business?

If not, document it. Ask your employees or team managers to agree and construct concrete processes for every action in the business. Do this for the next month and by the end you will have a complete blueprint for the running of your business.

2. Tracking - In order to make improvements and to optimize a process, you need to track and measure everything. First define the metric that process is supposed to deliver, then track how changes to the process increase or decrease that metric.

For example, “having the team leader double check work for quality costs him two hours each day” but also, what are you getting in return for this additional check? How many bugs has this check found / fixed?

You should know what your return is on the investments you make in all areas of your business. Then you can move forwards and optimize.

3. Optimization – At this stage, you should know all the important processes in your business and what results you are currently receiving with the resources you have.

There are many ways to optimize your business, but one of the easiest ways is to simply test different ways of doing things then tracking and comparing the results against the results you had before.

Always remember that looking for external factors to help boost sales or customer satisfaction is not the only way to optimize your business and improve profits. Simply look internally and optimize everything you already have first. Strive to optimize constantly in all areas of your business.

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi

About the Author:
Vinay Patankar is the CEO of Process Street, a productivity tool for process driven teams. Find him on Twitter or his Blog. Process Street is 100% free to use for small teams and freelancers. Create a free account here: http://process.st

Employee Loyalty: How to Create and Maintain a Loyal Team

“I’ll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty.” —Samuel Goldwyn, American movie mogul.

Employee Loyalty: How to Create and Maintain a Loyal Team by Laura Stack #productivityTo paraphrase Forrest Gump, loyalty is as loyalty does. In recent years, some business leaders have bemoaned the death of old-fashioned employee loyalty, as workers realize that technology has freed them from some workplace restraints. Many have also decided they can get farther faster by jumping from one company to another, rather than by working their way through the hierarchy of one organization.

This is unfortunate, but it represents a natural evolution of the workplace. Conditions have changed drastically in the past several decades. Given global competition, the lingering Great Recession, and shareholder demands for greater value, most companies can no longer guarantee lifelong employment or provide traditional pensions. The loyalty guarantees workers once took for granted no longer exist…so it should come as no real surprise that many workers feel their leadership has no loyalty to them. In an environment like that, why should they feel loyal toward the company?

The New Paradigm

That said, employee loyalty need not be a thing of the past. No one really expects lifelong loyalty anymore, but you can certainly increase team loyalty to levels not seen for years if you’ll make just a few adjustments to the way you do business.

1. Treat your people with trust and respect. Your chief aim should be to make your team’s work easier, by clearing the way toward your organization and team goals. Respect your people by making those goals very clear, and show them you’re working as hard as they are. Don’t look down on your team members or dismiss their concerns, and give them the training and advice they need to do their jobs well. Shared respect has many routes, and you have to police them all.

2. Strive for consistency. Your people need to know they can predict your behavior, at least to some extent, and that you’ll treat everyone the same way no matter what. If they feel they can’t understand you, then how can they trust you? So when you make a promise, fulfill it. Follow through with your commitments. If a specific achievement earns someone an award, make sure everyone who captures that achievement gets the award. Display consistency with word and deed, and expect the same of your people. They will respect you for it.

3. Empower your workers. Give them the opportunity to own their jobs. If your team members can function without excess interference or overly-punitive responses to their mistakes, they’ll stay with you longer. Give them room to breathe, and let them take the initiative to improve their own output. They may surprise you by what they accomplish—and they’ll certainly find it easier to execute your strategy at a moment’s notice, especially if they don’t have to ask your permission first.

4. Lead. Your leadership position gives you the ability to shape other people’s lives by example. You can be sure your workers watch you constantly, so they’ll know if you ignore your own rules for working hours and leaving early. If you roll in half an hour late every day, spend two hours at lunch, and leave to play golf each Thursday promptly at two, you’ll lose their respect and worse, their loyalty. Leadership means more than just ordering people around; it means guidance, in everything from coaching to living up to your promises.

Looking Ahead

Accept the fact that business life has irrevocably changed due to technological and sociological evolution. No matter where you work or what you do, people will leave more regularly than you would like, and you’ll often be forced to bring new team members up to speed. Even innovative companies like Amazon and Google have surprisingly high turnover rates. You can’t hold onto people like your predecessors did decades ago, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. While money and position mean a great deal to employees, so do simple things like trust, compassion, respect, empowerment, good communications, and solid leadership.

Three Synergistic Partnerships

Three Synergistic Partnerships by Laura Stack #productivitySometimes, separate components can come together to form something far more valuable than the sum of its parts: a new chemical, a cake, a family, a business, a partnership. We call this “synergy.” It’s like the miracle of compound interest, if you think about it: one plus one equals way more than two. We’ve recognized the value of synergy throughout history, but it was only in the twentieth century that the great Buckminster Fuller created a term for it.

We often see synergy in teamwork situations, where individuals lend their strengths to a collaborative framework in such a way that the contributions slot together perfectly, growing into a greater whole that expands beyond their limits. Ideally, this is what we’re all reaching for as we build and shape our teams. When conditions are right, suddenly a new “organism” comes into being, a social or technological offspring independent of and greater than the contributors. This reaction can prove immensely profitable, whether culturally or economically, on a large scale or a small one.

Those of us who’ve paid attention to either history or modern society have seen how whole art-forms or industries can spring up seemingly out of nowhere, and supported, later, by large, thriving populaces of artists or technologists as they grow to maturity and bear their fruit. Consider the burgeoning of opera and musical theatre several centuries ago, for example, and today’s home computing revolution.

Let’s take a closer look at three synergistic teams on a small scale: pioneering pairs who, separately, did fine—but who built their passions to miraculous heights when they worked together.

Pair #1: Speaking of opera, let’s start with the famous Gilbert and Sullivan. Their comic operettas have become familiar parts of the grand tapestry of English-speaking culture, and some of their songs and lyrics have even entered common speech. You’ve probably heard of their Pirates of Penzance. Some consider Gilbert and Sullivan the fathers of modern musical theatre, that more accessible offshoot of grand opera.

W.S. Gilbert was a librettist, a specialist in writing the words for operas. He and composer Arthur Sullivan met in 1869 and proceeded to delight the Victorian world with their 14 topsy-turvy comedies, which theatre groups still perform today. Their innovations in content and form have shaped not just musical theater but film, literature, TV, and political discourse in the years since.

Both men built decent individual careers in their fields, careers in which they seemed happy enough. But fate intervened, a mutual friend introduced them, and once they started working together, something clicked—and their synergy delighted Victorian society. Gilbert’s sprightly lyrics, wrapped perfectly in Sullivan’s music, entertained and tweaked the noses of those in power without offending them. The two men eventually went their separate ways, never rising again to their former glory; but the fact remains that their synergistic glory did occur, and we still celebrate them for it.

Fast forward to the 1970s for Pair #2: Jobs and Wozniak. The two Steves were instrumental in creating the home computing revolution, building the first Apple computers in 1979. The very first Apple, mostly soldered together from off-the-shelf components in Wozniak’s garage, literally had a case made of plywood. Most people don’t realize that Apple introduced home computers before the rash of IBM clones many of us now use. In fact, the advent of IBM PCs forced them to invent something altogether new: the Macintosh.

Jobs and Wozniak seem an unusual pairing at first glance, because “the Woz” was an introverted loner, while Jobs was outgoing and energetic. But synergistic situations often form from the interactions, and even the clashes, between very different individuals brought together under the right circumstances. Indeed, the need to bridge this gap between personalities may be what makes collaborative synergy happen in the first place. Both men were very intelligent, and if they’d gone their separate ways earlier, would no doubt have done very well; but modern technology would have been the worse for it. In the end, their talents complemented each other.

Wozniak was the creator, the dreamer who holed up in his lab and built world-changing things. While also technically sophisticated, Jobs was the salesman: able to buy into Wozniak’s dream and sell it to the public at large. He also stimulated creativity in others. For proof, look no farther than how badly Apple fared after Jobs was forced out in the 1980s—and how well it did later, almost immediately after he took his job back.

Pair #3 is another high-tech partnership you may have heard of: Brin and Page. Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page didn’t really like each other when they first met in their Ph.D. program at Stanford, but eventually decided to work on a project together. Both were interested in creating a way to rank search engine results based on how many other sites linked into a particular page, and the quality of those incoming links. This page ranking system eventually led to the company they abandoned their degrees to create: a little something called Google. Google has done so well it’s literally become a household name. Its name has even entered the language as a verb, now accepted as such by all the major dictionaries. We’ve all “googled” something or someone, haven’t we?

Since their first search engine appeared, their company has burgeoned into an Internet giant, providing everything from news and social media to instant language-to-language translation, all with a wit that has endeared them to millions.

It’s hard to say precisely what each man brings to the partnership. Both are fiercely intelligent, and clearly their abilities and personal characteristics mesh very well. But Brin seems to be the daredevil of the group, as you can see just from browsing his personal pictures online. He takes chances: piloting, skydiving, occasionally hosting odd theme parties. He’s more outgoing, writing his Google+ blogs himself and personally answering emails. Larry Page seems much more private, and I suspect he provides stability and administrative capabilities to the partnership.

These inventive pairs offer just three examples of interpersonal synergy. There have been millions, no doubt; we’ve built our technological society on them. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to build synergy in your team, such energetic synergy that it yanks everyone forward in a quantum leap of productivity and profit. It may not come easy. It may not come at all. But if you can create the right conditions, open yourself up to the possibility, and lead your team down that yellow brick road to the future, you can learn what it’s like to contribute to a team and get far more back than you ever expected.